August 24, 2019

Find Out What Are The Twelve Gemstones In The High Priest's Breastplate? High Priest's Breastplate Gems In The Bible And Torah Crystal Gemstones Used For Miraculous Guidance And Symbolism.

[source: International Gem Society (IGS)]

Question: I’d love to have some feedback on the identity of the gemstones of the breastplate of Aaron. In Exodus 28:15-21, the breastplate of Aaron is described in great detail. In the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, a different gemstone is listed for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. They are, in the 1st row, carnelian, chrysolite, and emerald; in the 2nd row, turquoise, sapphire, and amethyst; in the 3rd row, jacinth, agate, and crystal; in the 4th row, beryl, lapis lazuli, and jasper.

I figure that chrysolite is chrysoberyl, the crystal is clear quartz, and the beryl is probably aquamarine. These gems were familiar to people in this region at that time.

In the King James Version, however, different gems are listed. I would like to know what other International Gem Society (IGS) members think the gems of the breastplate of Aaron might have been.

Francine Schuster

The Identity Of The Jacinth Of The Breastplate Of Aaron

The name jacinth, or hyacinth, is now applied to the orange-red and red-brown varieties of zircon. However, the classical Greek name huakinthos (Rev 21:20) appears to have been our blue sapphire. The classical hyacinthus was generally referred to as blue. (However, the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder speaks of it as golden colored).

In the New American Standard Bible and the New International Version accounts of the breastplate of Aaron (Exodus 28:19; 39:12), hyacinth is used instead of the “ligure” of the King James Version for the Hebrew leshem. In these cases, the name apparently refers to a deep yellow gem, possibly our zircon. Nevertheless, the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament, uses huakinthos for the Hebrew tekelet in all the descriptions of the Tabernacle furnishings. Blue is used in the English versions. Since various ancient writers refer to hyacinthus as some shade of blue, there can be little question that jacinth is our sapphire.

Hope this helps,

The Identities of The Chrysolite And Sapphire Of The Breastplate Of Aaron

I must respectfully disagree with Francine. It is my opinion that the “chrysolite” in the breastplate of Aaron is not chrysoberyl at all. Rather, it’s another term for what we now call peridot.

One other item which may be of interest. The biblical term “sapphire” was not always the sapphire we know today. “Sapphire” in the Mediterranean and Middle East in biblical times was almost always what we now refer to as lapis lazuli.

I’m fascinated by the gemstones of the breastplate of Aaron as well as the foundation stones of the New Testament. Interesting subjects, aren’t they?


This article in our series on precious stones in the Bible will discuss the exact placement of gems within the High Priest's breastplate. We will also explore the linkage between the stones and the twelve tribes of Israel.

Foreshadowing the ministry of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:17, 4:14 to 7:28, 9, 10), the High Priest represented all of God's people before the Eternal. While performing his priestly duties he wore a breastplate, designed by God, which had twelve special gems in it.

The High Priest's duties were the same as any other Levite who served the Eternal with a few exceptions. For example, only He could wear the breastplate containing precious gems embedded in it. Additionally, only he could perform the tasks required on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). He was also the only person who could use two (likely) gems referred to in the Bible as the Urim and Thummim.

The special breastplate of gems made for the priest (sometimes referred to as the "breastplate of judgment" - Exodus 28:30) had each of its precious stones engraved with the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel (Leviticus 8:7 - 9, Exodus 28:17 - 20, 39:10 - 13).

The main purpose of the High Priest's breastplate was to be a memorial (reminder) before the Eternal. It was meant to remind him that he represented all the people, as mediator and intercessor, before the Lord (Exodus 28:29, 39:7). The gems embedded in it were aligned into four rows containing three stones each (Exodus 28:17, 39:10).

Scripture does not directly state which breastplate gems had a particular Israelite tribal name attached to it. First century Jewish Historian Josephus (who came from a priestly family), however, states that the names were placed according to birth order (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 3, Chapter 7, Verse 5). This makes a certain amount of sense, since the Bible does state that the tribes were to be listed, six names each in birth order, upon two onyx gems the High Priest wore on his shoulders (Exodus 28:9 - 10).

The birth order of Jacob's (Israel's) male children, from firstborn to last, is Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin (Genesis 29 - 30).

Name and stone order

There is an important fact we need to understand before we can label each of the gems in the breastplate with a tribal name. The method most people in the Western world (including those who translated the Bible into English) read and write is in the direction of left to right (the method you are using to read this text). Ancient Hebrew, however, wrote and read in the direction starting on the right side of a particular line of text and went left.

This means that the engraving of the gems, in the birth order of Jacob's son, begins on the far right of the breastplate as opposed to starting on the far left. For example, Reuben, the firstborn son of Jacob, should have his name engraved on the far right gem in the first row.

Going right to left, Simeon's name is on the middle stone, while Levi's name is on the row's far left stone (there are three stones in each row). Judah, the fourth son, has his name on the far right precious stone in the second row, and so on (Gemstones in the Breastplate, page 7).

Hebrew's right to left method of reading and writing also affects the exact placement of the gems within the breastplate. For example, based on this study series, the first three stones in the first row (Exodus 28:17), using our English method for listing things left to right, are the Carnelian, Peridot and an Emerald. The actual placement of the stones, however, begins with the first gemstone (Carnelian) placed on the far right of the first row.

Putting it all together, the below image shows the placement of gems in the High Priest's breastplate (from the point of view of a person looking at it while the priest is wearing it) along with the name engraved on each one.

sgsnapshot published on Apr 11, 2010: Joseph Prince talks about the Love Secret of the High Priest's Garment.

Joseph Prince published on Dec 4, 2014 Accepted, Blessed & Loved—Understanding Your Identity Through A Study Of The High Priest's Garments

Get amazing insights into the present-day ministry of Christ in this fascinating study of the high priest’s garments. From the headdress to the ephod to the linen garments, Joseph Prince explains the rich significance behind each piece, including the specific colors and materials used. Be blown away as you see how each detail speaks of Christ’s beauty and perfect finished work, as well as His power and unfailing love for you. Uncover new covenant truths too about the mysterious Urim and Thummim stones. You’ll discover like never before how accepted, blessed, and loved you are by Jesus your High Priest, and what an awesome identity and destiny you have in Him.

This DVD Album contains 6 sermons with 6 DVDs (approx. total duration: 7hr 6min)

1. The High Priest’s Garments (Part 1)—As His Thoughts Are, So Are Yours (Approx. 1hr 12min)

2. The High Priest’s Garments (Part 2)—The Beauty Of Christ In The Colors Of The Ephod (Approx. 1hr 27min)

3. The High Priest’s Garments (Part 3)—Why Linen Garments (Approx. 1hr 19min)

4. The High Priest’s Garments (Part 4)—The Blue Robe And The Perfection Of Jesus’ Finished Work (Approx. 51min)

5. The High Priest’s Garments (Part 5)—Resting On Christ’s Power And His Love (Approx. 55min)

6. The High Priest’s Garments (Part 6)—New Covenant Truths Hidden In The Urim And Thummim (Approx. 1hr 22min)

Find us at:

TD Jakes published on Jan 16, 2013: Bishop Jakes teaches on the significance of Urim and Thummim

Crystal Gemstones Used for Miraculous Guidance and Symbolism
written by Whitney Hopler

Crystal gemstones inspire many people with their beauty. But the power and symbolism of these sacred stones go beyond simple inspiration. Since crystal stones store energy inside their molecules, some people use them as tools to better connect with spiritual energy (such as angels) while praying. In the Book of Exodus, the Bible and Torah both describe how God himself instructed people to make a breastplate with 12 different gemstones for a high priest to use in prayer.

God gave Moses detailed instructions for how to build everything that the priest (Aaron) would use when approaching the physical manifestation of God's glory on Earth -- known as the Shekinah -- to offer people's prayers to God. This included details about how to build an elaborate tabernacle, as well as the priest's clothing. The prophet Moses passed this information along to the Hebrew people, who put their individual skills to work carefully making the materials as their offerings to God.

Gemstones for the Tabernacle and Priestly Garments

The Book of Exodus records that God instructed the people to use onyx stones inside the tabernacle and on a garment called an ephod (the vest that the priest would wear underneath the breastplate). Then it presents the details of the 12 stones for the famous breastplate.

While the list of stones isn't completely clear due to differences in translations over the years, a common modern translation reads: "They fashioned the breastplate -- the work of a skilled craftsman. They made it like the ephod: of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen. It was square -- a span long and a span wide -- and folded double. Then they mounted four rows of precious stones on it. The first row was ruby, chrysolite, and beryl; the second row was turquoise, sapphire and emerald; the third row was jacinth, agate, and amethyst; the fourth row was topaz, onyx, and jasper. They were mounted in gold filigree settings. There were twelve stones, one for each of the names of the sons of Israel, each engraved like a seal with the name of one of the 12 tribes." (Exodus 39:8-14).

Spiritual Symbolism

The 12 stones symbolize God's family and His leadership as a loving father, writes Steven Fuson in his book Temple Treasures: Explore the Tabernacle of Moses in the Light of the Son: "The number twelve often indicates governmental perfection or complete divine governance. We can conclude that the breastplate of twelve stones symbolizes the complete family of God -- a spiritual Israel of all who has been born from above. ... The twelve names engraved upon the onyx stones were also engraved upon the stones of the breastplate. Surely this portrays a spiritual burden upon both the shoulders and the heart -- a sincere care and love for humanity. Consider that the number twelve points to the ultimate good news destined for all nations of mankind."

Used for Divine Guidance

God gave the gemstone breastplate to the high priest, Aaron, to help him spiritually discern answers to the people's questions that he asked God while praying in the tabernacle. Exodus 28:30 mentions mystical objects called "Urim and Thummim" (which mean "lights and perfections") that God instructed the Hebrew people to include in the breastplate: "Also put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastplate, so they may be over Aaron’s heart whenever he enters the presence of the Lord. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the Lord."

In Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Commentary: Spreading the Light of God's Word Into Your Life, Earl Radmacher writes that the Urim and Thummim "were intended as a means of divine guidance for Israel. They involved gems or stones that were either attached to or carried inside the breastplate worn by the high priest when he consulted with God. For this reason, the breastplate is often called the breastplate of judgment or decision. However, while we know that this decision-making system existed, no one knows for sure how it worked. ... Thus, there is a great deal of speculation about the how the Urim and Thummim delivered a verdict [including making various stones light up to represent answers to prayer]. ... However, it is easy to see that in the days before much of the scriptures were written or collected, there was a need for some kind of divine guidance. Today, of course, we have God’s complete written revelation, and therefore have no need of devices such as the Urim and Thummim."

Parallels to Gemstones in Heaven

Interestingly, the gemstones listed as part of the priest's breastplate are similar to the 12 stones that the Bible describes in the Book of Revelation as comprising the 12 gates to the wall of the holy city that God will create at the end of the world, when God makes a "new heaven" and a "new earth." And, because of the translation challenges of precisely identifying the breastplate stones, the list of stones may be entirely the same.

Just like each stone in the breastplate is inscribed with the names of ancient Israel's 12 tribes, the gates of the city walls are inscribed with those same names of Israel's 12 tribes. Revelation chapter 21 describes an angel giving a tour of the city, and verse 12 says: "It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel."

The city wall's 12 foundations "were decorated with every kind of precious stone," verse 19 says, and those foundations were also inscribed with 12 names: the names of Jesus Christ's 12 apostles. Verse 14 says, "The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb."

Verses 19 and 20 lists the stones that make up the city's wall: "The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst."

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